Aguri Suzuki made his debut in Formula One at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1989 from the Larrousse team as a rush replacement for a driver who had fallen ill. At that time, he got an adequate result for a debut race by qualifying 20th and finishing the race in 16th place. The following year, Suzuki entered the World Championship from Zakspeed as a full-time regular driver, but he struggled due to the car’s inferior performance and ended the season without being able to compete in even one race. Turning over a new leaf, Aguri Suzuki moved to the Larrousse team in 1990 and there could finally demonstrate his ability. He finished sixth for the first time in Round 8, the British Grand Prix, and he scored one point again in Round 14, the Spanish Grand Prix. Aguri came to Round 15, Japanese Grand Prix, in top form.
Aguri Suzuki qualified 10 th but Jean Alesi (Tyrell) who qualified fourth had to miss the race due to an injury, which moved Aguri to ninth place on the starting grid. He raced boldly through numerous dramatic scenes, such as dynamically overtaking another car while running with two wheels off from the track to pass on the dirt just before entering the first corner. He steadily made his way to the front and moved into third place on lap 35. That set the whole circuit roaring with excitement. Fans who realized that they might see the first Japanese driver on the F1 podium ever, cheered loudly for Aguri. Suzuki pushed hard as if he were responding to that cheering from his fans. He kept on re-setting the fastest lap time of the race to lose the cars chasing him from behind.
On the final lap, a great cheer went up from the crowd when Aguri appeared around the last turn. The first ever podium finish for a Japanese driver that everybody had dreamed of had just been come true in front their eyes. Aguri’s aggressive driving that fans still remember today and the great achievement of the first podium finish for a Japanese driver; this was a moment when Japan firmly established its position in the Formula One world.
Alain Prost, who did not want to compete as the teammate of Ayrton Senna, moved to Ferrari. The two drivers battled for the 1990 World Championship respectively as the ace drivers of the McLaren and Ferrari teams. The Japanese Grand Prix, Round 15 of the season, was held in a situation where the contest for the Championship title had been narrowed down to the same two drivers as in two previous years: Senna and Prost. Senna was the leader in the Championship point standings this time, Prost had to win the race at Suzuka, penultimate round of the Formula One series, in order to keep the possibility of winning the title in the last round alive.
Senna took the pole position with Prost second. This was the third time for the Japanese Grand Prix to see the same two drivers compete from the front row of the starting grid. In 1988, Pole sitter Senna suffered an engine stall. In 1989, Senna took the pole position again but the acceleration of Prost was better than Senna’s. Senna, who wanted to take the lead at the start, appealed for a change in the location of the pole position, which was dirtier and out of the record line, to get it on the line, but his request was rejected by the stewards.
The start of the race took place in front of a huge crowd of 141,000 spectators, the largest number ever. As Senna had pleaded, his acceleration was slower than that of Prost, who started from outside on the track and got the advantage. Senna followed Prost about and tried to regain the lead but he couldn’t do it. Senna’s McLaren went alongside of Prost’s Ferrari with half a length of the car to approach into the first corner. Then, the cheering from the stands turned to screams. Two cars collided there, sending both cars off the track. Senna’s McLaren and Prost’s Ferrari both hit the tire barriers and both drivers had to retire from the race.
This meant that Senna had clinched the Championship title. The Championship contest for 1990 season, which is still talked about even today, had reached an unprecedented end, decided after only a few hundred meters. With this, the “Senna vs Prost confrontation” that had started in 1988 and reached its climax in 1990 was temporarily suspended. Ferrari was out of form in the following 1991 season and Prost did not take part in the Championship for the year 1992. Direct confrontation between the two drivers would have to wait until 1993, when Alain Prost returned to the F1 World Championship as a Williams team driver.
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